Today sees Gates' latest baby emerge kicking and screaming into the world.
And it's a monster. Microsoft Office 2000 takes up 252Mb, according to Microsoft, on a typical install. And that's not even including Publisher, FrontPage, and some other bits and pieces, for which you'll need to find a further 174Mb.
What can it be that makes Office 2000 so big? Is it the TeaMaker(tm) component? The talking paper clips? Or maybe it's the pivot tables in Excel, that Microsoft takes such pride in but nobody ever uses?
The emergence of office product suites that do everything but water the pot plants is taken by some to be a hideous example of how bloatware is taking over the world, while others rejoice that now they can get even more fonts and silly noises into their PowerPoint presentations. Needless to say, it's the former we should be listening to.
Bloat has come to be a fact of life. It's not just software that's getting fatter - most Americans are already overweight and the UK is going the same way. And the reasons are fairly similar - greater availability of stuff leads to greater consumption of it, leads to more wastage. As we're now richer, we can eat more, so we get fat, and more food simply gets thrown out. As memory and storage and processing power are now cheaper, we can use more, so we get fatter software, and more of that power is never properly used.
So what? If there is an overabundance of stuff available, who cares how it gets used? Moore's law will still hold true, so nobody needs to worry about running out.
People who say we shouldn't worry about bloatware are missing the point.
The danger of having too much stuff available to use is that you don't use it efficiently. Using up resources even though you don't need them makes people obese and software slow. The elegance and leanness enforced by a lack of resources can be a good discipline, ensuring there is no waste.
The new capabilities in Office 2000 are welcome. Greater ease of use, better Web integration, more collaborative working facilities - these are all good things, for which we are grateful. But the suspicion has to be that a product so hungry for our computing resources is not using them as well as it could. Wastage is heavily penalised in business today, as companies strive to downsize. So how can we get away with wasting so much of our energy on bloatware?
But if you think Office 2000 is big, wait for Windows 2000, with its rumoured 40 million lines of code. Are you sure we need all of them, Bill?
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